Beanbags and Other Soft Things, 2019

Installation view at Stryx, Minverva Works, Birmingham. As part of ‘Play’, group exhibition on 6 / 09 / 2019

“This September, Stryx presents P L A Y, an exhibition as imagined through the distinct styles of thirteen of the gallery’s studio holders. Spanning different media – including painting, performance, sculpture and video - the exhibition will highlight the ways in which artists have embraced, subverted and reinvented the (supposedly puerile) stuff of play, by playing it up, playing their cards right, playing God, and playing nicely together.

I remember back when I was little, coming home from school and doing what I thought were fun dances for my best friend which would culminate in me taking my clothes off. Looking back, I suppose I was giving her some kind of naïve strip-tease - we thought we were playing. Play and playtime seem to be something that functions as an essential part of your childhood until it’s either trained out of you or it becomes something else. I’ve been re-watching TV shows from when we were kids – like Art Attack (Pencil N Paper ALERT!) – when art and play were always together. The set with the massive water colour palette as big as a minibus that I thought you could probably sleep in and sweet Neil Buchanan who would talk directly to you in an excited, encouraging sort of way whilst messing about with clay, old newspapers and the all-important PVA glue. Why do we stop using “kids” art materials and move on to professional art supplies? When did we sacrifice our playtime for the work / life balance?

For this summer’s studio holders’ show, we pay attention to Sol LeWitt’s gentle reminder that ‘Your work isn't a high-stakes, nail-biting professional challenge. It's a form of play. Lighten up and have fun with it!’ As the world around us grows gravely more serious, this exhibition strives for an imaginative and all-encompassing approach to art. One that you can enjoy.”

Curated by Rupi Dhillon, Emily Scarrott and Emily Sparkes. Part of Digbeth First Friday.

Exhibiting artists: Kirsten Adkins, James Dawson, Jakub Ceglarz, Rupi Dhillon, Dominic Macmillan-Scott, Jack Miles, Darryl Georgiou & Rebekka Tolley-Georgiou, Dorota Romanowska, Elvin Sanders, Emily Scarrott, Larissa Shaw, Emily Sparkes, and Ana Stariskova.

Beanbags and Other Soft Things has printed ‘radical history of cooperatives’ as sub-ordinates to capital of labour, where building human association on a new form of social value is recognised as independent and an alternative model to the solitary nature of working within an institution.

We can deal with the institution within its own terms, but should commit to critique of the neo-liberal pressures to subordinate the mainstream into an alternative model: a means of ‘dealing with’ not ‘dealing independently from’. The alternative model being one that is independent from a point of being trapped between a difficult precarity of capitalism and labour. How can artist production escape a capitalist value if we cannot conventionally identify capitalist value? How do we divide labour? How do we adopt cooperative and collaborative models within existing structures instead of creating something independent and outside of the structure?

The value vortex is already recalibrated within artist practice where capital is subordinate to labour: the catalytic principles of social knowing.